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A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting
Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting and announcements made by the city.

Statement on residential schools

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis began the June 7 council meeting acknowledging the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, describing it as “heartbreaking.”

The meeting was the first council session since the discovery was made.

“On behalf of mayor and council, we extend our deepest condolences to families and survivors of residential schools during this time of collective grief,” he said, adding the city joins FCM in calls for a national day of mourning.

Other council members also added their own voice to the mayor’s statement later in the meeting and emphasized the importance of reviewing actions the city has or could take under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and calls to action.

A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been set up at 1-866-925-4419 to provide support for former residential school students and those affected.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Jumpstart Playground plans move forward

Work to prep Shipyards Park for the new accessible Jumpstart Playground could soon be underway.

At a special meeting on June 10, councillors approved adding another $264,832 to the already approved $120,000 for playground site preparation.

The fully-accessible playground is being provided to the city by the Jumpstart organization as part of its efforts to have a fully-accessible playground in every jurisdiction in the country. While Jumpstart is providing the playground, the city is required to prepare the site for the playground to be installed.

The project had been slated to go ahead in 2020 but was put off due to COVID-19.

The proposal was brought to council at their June 7 meeting. Landon Kulych, the city’s manager of parks and community said the city has gone out to tender twice on the project with no response.

“After multiple attempts at soliciting a contractor, one local company has recently indicated they would be able to take on the project and complete it on time,” Kulych said. “The total quote received for the site preparation work is $384,831.”

Mayor Dan Curtis also announced Jumpstart will be providing the city with a $50,000 grant toward the site preperation.

Council voted on the budget change at the special meeting, rather than on June 14 as was otherwise scheduled, to ensure work could begin as soon as possible so that it’s ready for mid-July when Jumpstart plans to install the playground.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Expect single lane traffic overnight on bridge in and out of Riverdale

The Robert Campbell Bridge will be reduced to single lane vehicle traffic between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. beginning June 11th until July 1st, weather permitting.

In a statement, the City of Whitehorse said its contractor, Andco Enterprises Ltd., will be making extensive deck repairs during the two-week period.

Commuters will be required to stop at the bridge, as flag persons will be controlling the flow of traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists will be redirected to the available side of the bridge, and emergency vehicles will be given priority at all times.

The city asks that residents drive with care, reduce speed, and obey traffic controllers and construction signage.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Community service and municipal charges grants considered

More than $165,000 could be doled out to 23 community groups to go to property taxes and municipal charges as council considers the 2021 municipal charges and community service grants.

The proposed grants came forward at Whitehorse city council’s June 7 meeting.

The city provides the grants each year to assist organizations with property taxes and municipal charges.

The proposed 2021 grants would range anywhere from $206.81 for Tennis Yukon to $41,850.12 for MacBride Museum.

It’s noted that the grants cover 50 to 100 per cent of property taxes owed for each organizations. There is a cap of $50,000 on city grants to any one organization in a one-year period with no applicants hitting that threshold this year.

Council will vote on whether to move ahead with the bylaw for the grants at its June 14 meeting.

Property taxes are due July 2.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Approval sought to replace fire hydrants

Hanson and Hawkins Streets could see new fire hydrants in place this year if Whitehorse city council approves spending $60,000 from the city’s water and sewer reserve.

The budget change came forward at council’s June 7 meeting.

In a report to council, Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s manager of engineering services, noted plans for new private developments on each of the streets.

“These redevelopment projects are advancing the need for the city to replace on street hydrants ahead of larger infrastructure reconstruction projects,” he said.

While funding for new hydrants in the city was approved in the capital budget, those plans did not include the new hydrants for Hanson and Hawkins streets, which will be reconfigured, to be online with the city’s water main rather than with private developments as is currently the case.

Council will vote June 14 whether to approve the budget change.

(Stephanie Waddell)

City eyes up geohazard mitigation

The City of Whitehorse’s Main Street escarpment geohazard mitigation project could be expanded to encompass the downtown south escarpment.

At Whitehorse city council’s June 7 meeting, Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s manager of engineering services, brought forward a recommendation for the project expansion.

As he explained, while the initial project was aimed at mitigation measures near the clay cliffs at Main Street and Seventh Avenue, this year has seen a snowmelt that has produced more runoff than usual and given the higher amount of precipitation in recent years the stability of the escarpment has been impacted.

“Within the last two weeks, active movements of silt/clay material along the downtown escarpment have occurred,” he said. “Two of the events are very visible. The sloughing that occurred at the end of Hoge Street, adjacent to Cliffside Park, was partially contained by the interceptor berms that were constructed as part of the St. Elias development. The other event, further south along the escarpment, involved a large mass of material that flowed from near the top of the escarpment.”

Eshpeter then pointed to the scope change to address the geohazard issues beyond Main Street.

“It is expected that the total cost to address the geohazards and clean up the active sloughing will exceed $100,000,” he said. “However, this budget will allow administration to commence the critical engineering work to monitor the slope stability in the areas of concern to protect the safety of the public.

“As the engineering work progresses and the active sloughing stabilizes, administration will be able to complete a more detailed assessment of the total estimated cost and impact of the escarpment geohazards.”

Council will vote June 14 on whether to go ahead with the scope change for the project.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Readying for union negotiations

As contracts between the City of Whitehorse and its staff draw closer to an end, efforts are underway to get set for negotiations.

At Whitehorse city council’s June 7 meeting, members were presented with the 2021 terms of reference that would be used in negotiations with the three unions representing city staff.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) represents the approximately 50 in the fire department while two locals with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represent the approximately 40 with the transit department and 350 other city workers.

Contracts with the two PSAC locals are scheduled to expire Aug. 31, while the contract with IAFF will expire Dec. 31.

“None of the locals have yet served the city with a notice to bargain, but initial preparations to bargain have begun,” director of corporate human resources Lindsay Schneider told council.

The proposed terms of reference would establish authority, powers and duties of the negotiating teams and are necessary for negotiating teams to proceed.

“Preparations are underway and will continue ahead of receiving formal notice to bargain,” she said. “Once formal notice is received, timelines will be established based on the availability of the teams and negotiators. Council will receive periodic updates as negotiations unfold.”

Council will vote June 14 on endorsing the terms of reference.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Trail maintenance update would include new trails

An update to the City of Whitehorse trail maintenance policy would add another 10 trails to the list of pathways to be maintained.

The proposed change was brought forward at Whitehorse city council’s June 7 meeting. Among the trails to be added are seven that have been built in the last three years and three trails that have been in place for many years and are well-used by the public.

“City trails are prioritized for maintenance based on a number of factors,” Meagan Wilson, the city’s projects and trails development coordinator, said. “All 10 trails being recommended for adoption to the trail maintenance policy are classified as Type III trails as they are unsurfaced single track trails typically used for hiking and mountain biking.”

Of the 10, four would be designated as priority B, which have built structures and are inspected annually, while the remaining six are priority C that don’t have build structures and are inspected every two to three years.

Council will vote on the change to the policy on June 14.

(Stephanie Waddell)

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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